Yesterday the devs announced a massive change to the dungeon key reward structure that will go live with Sea of Moving Ice on November 8th. So far players could review dungeon chests that required a key to open and then decide whether or not to spend the key on the loot they see. With the new change, the key gets auto-consumed and the loot acquired no matter what. The announcement quickly drew a colossal shitstorm with hundreds of postings in a matter of hours. So let’s talk about it!
Why is this a big thing?
First of all we need to understand why this change is such a big thing. The unintended “preview feature” was a major perk to all keys. Thanks to the beloved RNG additional dungeon chests are hardly worth the key most of the time. So players were able to generate additional chests by running content and only spend keys on a valuable reward. This was especially true for the Legendary Dragon Key, but of course also the effort vs. reward of campaign keys has to be weighted against other options. If you can bank on the fact that Valindra’s Tower Key is at least worth 3,000 RAD of Salvage and some Resonance Stones (and a chance at a Amulet of Valindra’s Favor), it’s much easier to justify making it.
Bug or Nerf?
So here comes the conspiracy. The devs officially call this one a bugfix, because the chest system was never supposed to work that way. Even if this is actually the story behind the change, the devs must know that the bug is in the game for such a long time that the fix does actually feel like a nerf to anyone. So show some tits and balls and call it that way. Add that some random international Community Manager has been picked to carry out the news in Andy’s absence and it’s terrible communication once again from PWE and Cryptic.
Who can really blame the players for going off on this? If this indeed was a bug, why was there even a decline option? And why didn’t they communicate it a long time ago? More than that: If this was a bug that actually hindered the devs to design appropriate chest rewards, why didn’t they fix it a long time ago? It stinks and I can fully understand anyone thinking that the devs did not deliver the full truth here. In the end the more free keys you have to spend on the chests, the earlier you need to turn to ZEN options.
Farming is most affected
Let’s talk some impact folks. Campaign keys are getting devalued for the reasons I stated, but most of them are not being used anyway. Since the changes of Mod 10 the go-to dungeon in terms of Salvage and rough Astral Diamonds is Temple of the Spider. Tier 1 dungeons are having a hard time outperforming Tier 2s even with the additional chest. So the effort vs reward of investing additional time to get keys for daily runs is just not there. Sharandar and Tyranny of Dragons have more lucrative options in the campaign with the Fey Blessing Enchantment, Rank 8 and the Lesser Dragon’s Hoard Enchantment anyway. And is anybody really grinding through Icewind Dale for Kessell’s Retreat Key? So whatever daily farm routine you had, you are probably still getting the same amount of ADs from it.
It’s not quite the same with Underdark and Maze Engine content. These +4 and +5 Rings do not come in bunches. Players are actually farming Demogorgon, Prophecy of Madness and Castle Never for additional chances at them. If there’s not a decent Ring in the chests, better luck next time. With the new changes you can exactly run one Skirmish or normal Demogorgon and one epic Demogorgon or Castle Never per day and that’s it. No more free chests for you, because you have to use your two keys. That’s insane and a major nerf to farming. What endgame players with VIP probably want to do is run a CN/EDEMO, two ETOS, one ESOT/KR and one NDEMO/POM/TODG. At first glance this seems to be the best rotation. Then darkness ensues.
It fits their monetization
What I find amazing is that it probably won’t even boost sales of Legendary Dragon Keys. I personally only bought them because I could take a look at any chest with them. Do you really think people will buy them for a negligible chance at a major reward? That’s more expensive than the lockbox lottery! With each key you are throwing 25,000 AD in the chest and in most cases get like 3,000 – 5,000 back. Not happening.
The change however does fit their overall monetization strategy. They monetize grind and grind means stalling the game in certain areas. I graphed the daily progress of Neverwinter over a year ago and it’s more valid than ever. After a certain point, you get very little progression out of your playing time. At the start of the session you can do your daily dungeons, earn all sorts of RAD and Salvage, your Dragon’s Hoards and Wanderer’s Fortune proc. But then when all daily keys are used, the RAD limit is reached and the ICDs are active, you hit the wall. So far you could at least still farm dungeons and take a look at chests, but this will soon be gone as well.
More adjustments are needed now
I’m additionally amazed that the devs won’t make additional adjustments to the loot structure. I mean this is not a recent development. The “bug” has been out there since forever. So you can’t tell me that this is kind of an emergency change that they have to roll out or something weird happens with the economy. This should have been part of an integral change. Their approach of nerf now, monitor and adjust later is just sickening. They never throw you the carrot prior to beating you with the stick first.
I bet we are going to see better rewards from chests and I’ll dig into some more ideas at a later point. But today is not the day for solutions. Today we just throw all the hamsters we can find at whoever is responsible for this.